CO2 has traditionally been the gas source of choice since the early days of paintball. The concept borrowed from bb guns and air pistols, paintball guns began using CO2 in the form of 12 gram disposable cartridges. Soon refillable CO2 tanks entered the scene, making the sport more affordable and enjoyable. Even though CO2 has done a lot for paintball, it is not without its drawbacks. When a CO2 tank is filled, it’s done so with liquid CO2. In order for the liquid to be a usable air source it must be converted into a gas to power the marker. This conversion requires thermal energy or heat. This is the reason why paintball guns and bb guns that use CO2 will get cold when firing. When the marker gets cold and heat is less available, the conversion from liquid to gas may be incomplete. This can allow liquid CO2 to enter the internals of the marker causing freeze-ups and inconsistencies in operating pressure, distance and accuracy.
Compressed air, aka Nitrogen, is the other primary propellant in paintball today. Unlike CO2, a compressed air paintball tank is filled with normal air. They are sometimes called ‘Nitro’ tanks only because the air we breathe is primarily made up of nitrogen. A nitrogen paintball tank is made with special materials and designed to store very high pressure. A standard CO2 tank will hold 850 psi of pressure. A compressed air tank can hold either 3000 or 4500 psi of air, depending on the model that you choose. A special compressor is used to fill a nitrogen tank. They can also be filled using a reserve tank of higher pressure and a filling adapter system. All compressed air tanks have a regulator installed on them which brings the pressure exiting the tank down to a usable level for the paintball gun. Regulators can be factory set, fixed at either high pressure (850 psi) or low pressure (400 psi). Some regulators are ‘adjustable’, allowing the user to set the output pressure to work with a number of different guns. Because compressed air is already in a usable form, no conversion is necessary. Therefore you will not experience coldness or freeze-up with compressed air. Paintball markers using compressed air are also more consistent in pressure and less affected by outside temperatures. This all equates to overall better performance.
You can easily calculate how many shots per fill you will get from a nitrogen paintball tank. As mentioned about, tanks come with a pressure rating of either 3000 or 4500 psi. They are available in different sizes including 45ci, 68ci and 88ci. If your tank is rated at 3000 psi, simply multiple the size (ci) by 10 to estimate the amount of shots per fill. For 4500 psi tanks, multiple the size by 15. For instance, a 68/3000 tank will give you an estimated 680 shots per fill (68 x 10).
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